New Year’s Eve brings a flashback – 11 years ago.
Five months pregnant with our 11th child, preparing for a New Year’s Eve Party at our house. Something felt wrong – in my body. Truth is, I’d felt it for some time. I knew the subtle symptoms of life slipping away from within my own body and hoped to God that I was wrong.
Tim left work and whisked me to the doctor. The busy little boy we were awaiting had fallen asleep. Only his lifeless body remained and my lifeless soul felt a cry that reached the heavens.
“I didn’t want to end this way!”, I reminded God of my prayer – or was it a demand? My 20 years of birthing babies seemed to end in a thud. Like a car wreck on your way to the future. But who am I to require exemption from my Creator? Isn’t even He, ‘well acquainted with grief’?
Sent home to wait on death to makes its fateful journey out of my body. I knew the medical routine – we’d lost another baby boy half-way through my pregnancy. I would need to wait and let my body absorb the extra fluid and see if I would go into labor on my own. The waiting could last for days.
Riding home in silence, Tim asked if I needed anything. I would be down to recover while our house full of life bounded forward – my body would mourn this loss. “The kids need warm pajamas.” We stopped to buy our standard cotton pajamas for the boys – it was finally getting cold in North Texas.
The day was surreal. We told the kids – cried together, and made plans of how we would get through the birth and recovery while taking care of the little ones. Everyone handled the pain differently. Some retreated to their rooms with music, others were aghast with questions – most just wanted to be near me – and me with them. Tim went into his ‘chaplain’ mode and made sure every detail was covered.
Friends brought dinner and we had our own, private gathering to mark the ringing in of the new and passing of the old.
My inability to create life or sustain it reminded me of my frame – I felt small. At the mercy of God who gives and takes away, yet deserves my praise and trust. Who befuddles the mind and satisfies the thirsty.
As a family we gave this child a ‘heavenly name’ – Nathan – which means, ‘God has given’.
Laying in bed after that long day – sleep eluded me. No kicks in my belly – just an eerie stillness. My mind rushed back and forth and my heart did its dance of anxiety. Throwing the covers off, I sat up in the dark. “This child didn’t have a name!” As his lifeless body lay deep within by belly I felt a rush of guilt. We hadn’t settled on a name, a real name for this little boy.
I threw my robe on and landed at the dining room table with my Bible. I asked the Lord to show me – He knew! “If this child had lived, what would his name have been?” I think God can handle hypothetical questions. Our sons have drawn their names straight from the Bible – Barnabas, Levi, Josiah, Amos, Malachi, Joel and Micah.
Dragging my finger down the fragile page of my oversized Bible. ‘Habakkuk?’ – no, ‘Nahum?’ – no, ‘Hosea?’ – no … tracing up the page I scoured the major prophets, ‘Isaiah?’ – no. ’Samuel’ – a name I’d never considered suddenly sounded familiar. Samuel? I grabbed my name book - it means ‘Asked - of – God’. Something leaped in my spirit. His name would have been Samuel. Hypothetical or not, this quieted my mind and satisfied my need to know.
This name was personal to our journey. After our son, Micah, was born my doctor gave us his professional opinion – no more children. Something about the 5 cesareans and a ‘tired uterus’, plus my age. ”Unless you have a word from the Lord, then I will go there with you”, he assured us with a knowing look. We wanted to give God another chance to create life. We asked the Lord for this child – specifically.
The funeral came and went with friends everywhere. Men in suits, ladies with babies, young and old – when we arrived at the graveyard I thought a large burial was taking place near our spot. Tim smiled and said, ”Debi, theses are our friends, they’re all here for us”. It seemed bitter and sweet at the same time. I wanted out of this bad dream, yet the urge to sit at the little, blue casket and savor the moments overtook my need to run away.
Now 11 years have passed and every New Year’s Eve I relive the day that rerouted my life. We tell the story to our kids to remind them of God’s faithfulness. We count the two sons we have in heaven as our own – even though life is never our own.
We did have a Samuel. One year later, a healthy baby boy joined our family. He turns 10 this week! Samuel is the delight of our lives. Ask him what his name means and he will tell you with a smile, “asked of God’.
Samuel’s story reminds me of God’s redemptive work. We all experience loss – it’s built into the process of living. Yet, our Lord is faithful in spite of our pain.
In 2013 may we all know the redeeming hand of our Creator in a fresh, new way.
‘Oh for grace to trust Him more.’